BTW, Bruce, I wonder if you would not mind to write about your experiences from earlier in your marriage with you Pinay wife…
It would be nice to compare the notes.
Myself, I have been married to my wife for just 2 years now, thereof, we are still considered newlyweds.
There are so many, by themselves very insignificant things we are going trough day by day in our life together that have to do with our cultural differences, which is totally different from what I have experienced with white ladies before…
For example, sometimes I joke with my wife that she has no sense of humor, does not understand sarcasm. Also from time to time, when I comment on something and forget about it next second she remains upset about it for 2 days because she takes everything personally.
With humor, we make jokes or joke about things with words that sound the same or with different words with the same meanings. For instance, a child’s joke: What is black and white and read (red) all over?” There are two answers, “A newspaper” which is black (print), White (paper) and read all over (by many people). The second answer is “an Embarrassed Zebra” Since a zebra is black and white and red all over from embarrassment (blushing).
The problem is many Filipinos, even if they speak English well, in many cases translate the English to their language and the try to understand the meaning. Unfortunately, most of the humor gets lost in translation. Even when you explain the reason for the humor, it is still lost on them.
From what I have learned, many Filipino jokes are based on someone’s mistake in language. There was a lot of laughing and repeating when a politician won his election and was quoted saying “I told you I would win by a mudslide” where he meant landslide.
Another problem here with language and understanding is many Filipinos are insecure with their use of English. Because of this, they feel insulted easily if they hear an American expression, where it is just an expression in American English. Sarcasm is taken as an insult and like most women; they let being upset to fester for days. Their feelings are hurt and they will make you suffer for hurting them.
Once day I was upset with my wife and commented to her “you are a pain in the ass.” Well she was so upset; she would not talk to me. During this point, we were driving to an English friend’s restaurant for lunch. While there, our friends asked what the problem was since he saw the tension between us. One of mentioned my use of the expression. He calmly explained to Elena what the expression meant and that it is just an expression to let off steam. Good thing he explained and Elena understood. Now we joke with it. I now say, “You are a pain in the ass, but you’re my pain in the ass” showing I love her and she is mine.
Something else we do not realize, with all the poverty and difficult life in the Philippines, Filipinos are a proud people and do not like outsiders to be insulting to their country and way of life. They know the problems, but they have resigned to the fact that these problems will not change and this is how life is here.
Another problem is as a foreigner in their country and at times, we generalize about the country or the people. This is insulting to most Filipinos, even if they agree with you. In anger or when upset many foreigners will say, “You Filipinos are this, or that.” In addition, they will be upset because you are saying all, not some or most. It is the same when we are overcharged and they tell you, “Well Sir, you’re a Rich American.” Many Filipinos think all Americans or Foreigners are wealthy and can afford the higher price.
Now, this reader mentioned how he will make a comment, he will forget it in a few seconds, and his wife would stay mad for days. I am curious, if he was ever married to an American woman. Is this attitude ever different? Men typically let off steam and then forget it, women will remember and remind you of things you have done wrong for years. Another old joke is “What does an elephant and a wife have in common? They both never forget.”
Unfortunately, for this reader and many others who have a Filipina wife in their home country, the wife will find and associate with other Filipinos. With this, they never fully immerse themselves in the English language. Many times, they will purchase an extended cable package so their wife can watch TV from the Philippines.
When I was originally planning to bring Elena to America, I mentioned to her, once she arrived and were settled, I was going to have her attend an advanced ESL (English as a Second Language) course and also have her read English newspapers and read books to better immerse her in the language.